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Easter week. Let’s talk about the atonement. I always find myself extra intimidated on Easter and Christmas weeks because the atonement is an intimidating topic. Not only has it been expounded on, but it’s also incomprehensible.
As I prayed for help to find what I needed to write about, my prayers were different than they usually are. Rather than asking for help to find something new to teach, I asked for help in knowing what part of the atonement to reiterate. Even though we’ve heard all of it before, different parts of our lives are going to need to hear different aspects again.
I hope to share the part that you need to read this week. Or, at the very least, I hope to bring the Spirit so that the Spirit can tell you what you need to hear this week.
This post is going to be a little bit different from most of my posts. Normally, I try to bring out principles from the scriptures. I try to highlight a principle and apply it directly to our lives. Today, if you want to learn anything from this post, you’re going to have to find it yourself. You will have to look at your own life, spirituality, actions, and relationship with the Savior. As we discuss how other people reacted to the Savior, you’ll have to look to yourself to find how you would react to Him.
Hid our faces from Him
Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
These are verses where Isaiah is prophesying about the mortal life of the Savior. He saw the Savior in a vision, and this was part of what he wrote about that vision. There were many different people with different reactions towards the Savior as He suffered.
Some of the phrases describe the reactions people had towards the Savior. One of these reactions was to hide their faces from Him. I want you to ponder a stranger in your mind. This stranger lives at the time of Christ and as He passes by carrying His cross, He looks up at your stranger. This stranger feels a need to hide their face from Him. Why? Why would they feel a need to hide their faces from Him?
When I first pictured this, I pictured a stranger looking away because they were uncomfortable watching someone suffer so greatly. However, as I read the phrase more carefully, I see that this was not the case. They didn’t just turn away from Him, they hid their faces from Him. Why? Perhaps it is because your imagined stranger knew the Savior, and they knew that He was a good man (even if they didn’t have a full testimony that He was the Son of God). Perhaps it is because they knew the Savior and were afraid to be associated with Him. For some reason, they couldn’t look Him in the eye.
This brings to mind a bible video. It is a video of Christ being crucified. Here is a screenshot from a scene of this bible video.
If you would like to watch the full video, you can find it here:
These are some of the people in Christ’s life who loved Him.
There is one person in particular who stands out to me, and that is the mother of Jesus. She was there when He died, and she didn’t flinch away. She got a front row seat to her Son’s agony, and she didn’t stop herself from taking it in. She didn’t hide her face or turn away. She looked.
There were many different reactions to the Savior. Some hid their faces. Some of them showed up on crucifixion day. Some despised Him. If you keep reading in this same chapter in Isaiah, we see that some people looked down on Him and assumed He was smitten of God. What would your reaction have been?
Your reaction to the atonement
So what is your reaction to the atonement? This may seem difficult to imagine because we didn’t live back then. However, there are a couple of things we can look out to get a rough idea.
What are your current feelings towards the Savior and the atonement? Does He feel like a Brother? Does it actually feel like He gave you a gift? I believe that our reunion with the Savior will be a major indication of how we felt about His atonement in our lives.
Have you ever actually pictured that moment? Maybe you imagined it a little bit. Maybe you pictured a hug and some tears, but have you ever pictured what it would look like if you were simply yourself?
Let’s pretend that you die and the veil remains for a while. Some ancient family member takes you by the hand and pulls you into a room and introduces you to Christ. The veil is still there. Your relationship with the Savior is exactly what it is right now. You don’t get to remember all of your fond memories from the pre-existence immediately.
Would there be an awkward hug because you feel like you’re supposed to do that? Would you freeze for a minute, hoping He would break the ice? Would you ask Him questions and what would you ask Him? Would you shy away from Him because you don’t believe He could actually love you? Would you shy away from Him because you’ve had trauma in your life and you don’t trust? Would you say thank you because you believe He did something significant for you even if you don’t really know what it is?
I imagine that mine might involve a little bit of shell shock. Maybe an awkward hi. Once the initial shock wore off, I would probably say thank you, but it would be hard for me. I’m not always a super gushy person, especially to someone’s face. I have sincerely tried to develop a relationship with the Savior, and there are moments that I feel that relationship. However, it’s still very abstract to me. I don’t think I would be scared. He knows I’ve tried hard to know Him and to follow Him, and I have also developed a testimony that He is proud of me. I would probably ask if my family was okay.
Now the veil parts. You remember your Brother. A million memories come flooding back, and all of them are warm and safe and fun and cherished. You remember being cherished. You have memories of when you watched Him perform the atonement from the other side. You have memories of Him advising you on how to respond to a situation on earth where you were helping out. You remember sitting with Him before He left for earth, asking Him if He was scared. It all comes flooding back.
And those memories from your pre-existence collide with your memories of your mortal life.
This is a big moment. It isn’t an edited scene from a movie. It isn’t just shame vs. glorious reunion, though I believe those are two general categories. No, you get to respond with all the emotions that come with being you.
Do you wish you had spent more time trying to know Him for real? Or can you look Him in the eye knowing you sincerely tried? Was the premortal you different from the mortal you? Is it hard to reconcile two different selves? Are you able to freely hug Him without reservation? Do the tears and laughter come without effort? Do you look at each other and sigh as you realize it’s all over? Do you find tears in your eyes as you thank Him for letting you do that, for allowing you to experience mortal life? Do you choke on your words as you thank Him for paying an unspeakable price so that you could go down and come back?
I know I said that I wanted to keep this extremely open-ended. I wanted to keep it open-ended so that people could really observe themselves and figure out where they were. However, I can’t help but think of a couple of friends that I’ve had who would be scared to ask themselves those questions.
I’ve had friends who have experienced trauma, trauma they didn’t deserve, trauma that simply led to more trauma. This trauma has defined who they are in so many ways. It has affected their ability to trust, therefore affecting their ability to love. It has affected how they view themselves so dramatically that it’s near impossible to believe that someone could love them so perfectly.
Asking these questions may seem scary and difficult when you’ve had trauma that makes it more difficult for you to establish a relationship with the Savior. It may make you feel like you’ve fallen short because you haven’t been able to feel like a child of God, or you feel like you’re failing because you don’t trust people in general, let alone a perfect Person you don’t really know. It’s hard enough establishing relationships with people sitting in front of you, let alone abstract persons you can’t see.
For my friends in this situation, I want to help you see how you would respond more clearly.
Before the veil parts, it may feel awkward and difficult. You believe He did something for you, but the concept of deep love and care are foreign to you. It’s nearly impossible to digest. It may even be painful because you feel like you’re supposed to have this relationship with this perfect Man you’ve been taught about your entire life, and it’s not there even though you tried.
But as difficult as it is before, it will change completely after the veil parts. The memories of who you were and who He was will come flooding back. How much you loved and trusted Him will overcome you, and it will heal you in so many ways. You will remember how capable you are of love because you’ve done it before. You will remember how much you were loved, and you will be unable to deny His love because you felt it before.
You will be able to look back on your life with the Savior and with perspective. He will hold your hand and you will feel secure as you see the ways you did triumph. You will see the hurdles you jumped over that other people didn’t even know existed. The people you envied for their spirituality will no longer feel so high above you. You will be able to look at your mortal self with pride for how you chose to be kind when life was unkind. You will see how the Savior was picking you up when you didn’t know it was Him, and you will love Him all the more for it. Your relationship with Him is already stronger than you think.
I testify of our Savior’s ability to heal. Lifting the veil alone will fill some of those cracks and voids that felt bottomless. I testify that remembering the Savior is one of the most fulfilling journey’s you can take in this life.